Journal

Writings from the people of StrangeFlock

How to Fix GoPro Footage

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I know they say it's not the camera that makes the video. But it's hard to buy into that when I've been so spoiled working with excellent videographers with top-shelf cameras. GoPros are excellent, affordable, portable cameras. We strap them to bikes, fly them through the sky, dunk them in water and let our dog run around with one on her back. They're just...fun! But the footage needs a little love before you drop it into a professional video.

Here's one clip along with a breakdown of the ways I treated it in post. You will need Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro. And a GoPro.

There are countless video tutorials showing you how to make GoPro footage look better. I'm still learning as I go, but these are a collection of gems that helped me along the way.

 

Step One: Fix Your Camera Settings

This tutorial gets into post a little bit as well, but it's really best for camera settings. In short:

  • Protune > On
  • White Balance > Native
  • Color Profile > Flat
  • ISO > 1600
 

Step Two: Reduce Noise

Thanks to the instructions in this very helpful tutorial, I bit the bullet and bought the Neat Video Noise Reduction plugin for After Effects. For this particular shot, noise wasn't as big of an issue. But the footage we took at dawn and dusk had some serious artifacts. Here's a split screen before (left) and after (right). It's subtle but satisfying.

 

Step Three: Optical Compensation

GoPros have an option to turn off fisheye. Don't use it! One of the best features of the gopro is how it captures sweeping landscapes that feel immersive. Instead, I fixed it in post. Use the Optics Compensation effect in After Effects. You'll have to fiddle with the Field Of View (FOV) a little bit depending on how far your camera is from the subject matter. But anywhere between 50 and 70 should do the trick for GoPros. The result will give you a curved edge at the top and bottom of your video. You can either scale it up or add cinematic black bars later on in Premiere Pro.

 

Step Four: Stabilize

Some of the newer GoPros have in-camera stability. If you don't have that option, there's Warp Stabilizer in After Effects or Premiere Pro. There's a bit of give and take on this particular feature as the overall quality of the footage degrades the more you stabilize. A 20% smoothness will get rid of some rough edges without

 

Step Five: Masking

I was amazed at how simple it is to create custom shadows in After Effects. Especially if the shot is still. If the camera is panning around, this motion tracking tutorial is indispensable. However, if the camera is still, you simply make a solid layer with a feathered mask.

The yellow line is the rough mask created with the pen tool.

The yellow line is the rough mask created with the pen tool.

 

Step Six: LUTs

This is by far the most transformational step in the process. Ground Control offers a free GoPro LUT along with a very extensive LUT guide and plenty of premium LUTs made for GoPro or any other camera you may use. Here's the final side-by-side comparison with and without LUTs.

 

Step Seven: Music

This track from Acoustic Bro lends a lot of energy to this cut. I also incorporated a bit of ambient noise from the actual footage.

 

Final Video for the spectacular South Playa Sports

Gracias to Toni and family at South Playa Sports for the opportunity to make this video...and have so much FUN in the process.

Bonus Step: Wiggly Text

There was so much energy in the shots, but I wanted to add a little more with the text. Here's an easy way to create this effect while keeping the text editable.

Selling more widgets: A beginner's guide to the perks of website ownership

Don wants to sell more widgets to quality customers. How can a website help Don reach his goals?

Don wants to sell more widgets to quality customers. How can a website help Don reach his goals?

Face-to-face communication is so much more effective than a website. I get all my business through networking and word of mouth.
— People who don’t have websites

True. The best way to sell more widgets is to go door-to-door with a briefcase full of widgets and a smile. And if your customers like the widgets, they'll help you by talking about it. They may even throw a widget party and invite all their friends!

I have met a few internet holdouts lately. Businesses who have no URL. My first reaction was respect. The same respect I have for people without smartphones. But do they know what they're missing? I have no interest in talking someone into having a website that truly doesn't want a one. That being said,  here are a few things websites do that you might not have considered.

 

They prove that you exist.

You AND your business can exist without a website. But people may not believe it. The simplest, most basic task that each website performs is being your online business card. It legitimizes 

 

They can help you gain respect.

The clothes you wear, the vehicle you drive and your oral hygiene tell people that you respect yourself and the people around you. A well-designed, user-friendly website shows that you are proud of your company and your work. It shows that you care about customers. A well-written website shows that you can articulate the value your widgets bring to potential customers and even the community. Thought leadership in the form of blog posts on your site does even more for your respect quotient, like showing up in a tuxedo.

 

They attract quality talent.

How do you describe your company? What is your vision for the future of widgets? Do you have any awards or customer testimonials? Who works there and what are they like? These matter to potential employees who want to spend the prime years of their life inside your doors and base their professional reputation on your name.

 

They automate repetitive communication.

The list of prices, services, size of your company, phone number, address, blah blah blah. You're sick of saying it. They feel bad asking. Give yourself or your receptionist a break. Put it on your website.

 

They cross-sell.

Someone visits your site looking for more information on widgets. They had no idea you also make doodads, gizmos AND gadgets. You have just doubled your business from that individual, and it required no additional time on your part.

 

I can't promise that you will win friends, influence people or sell more widgets just because you have a website. But used in tandem with a good real-life communication strategy, it really can help.

Taking Risks: Four Ways to Get the Creative Juices Going

I’m at the point in my life when I know there are a few things I’m good at. There are some dishes I cook that always turn out right. Certain outfits I wear that just work. I know my way around Photoshop and InDesign. I can always go for a run and feel a sense of accomplishment.

The problem with doing the things I know is that it’s so easy to slip into autopilot. When I stay comfortable, things begin to look the same. I stop stretching and I stop growing. Worst of all, I stop loving the work I am doing. It’s no longer a journey of discovery and creation. Design becomes a chore. Creativity alludes me. I look for a quick fix, find it, and move on.

The only way I’ve learned to overcome this complacency is to take myself out of my comfort zone. Here are some of the ways I’ve attempted to get out of my comfort zone as well as the affect it has had on my creative process:

 

1. Try something that scares you: Skydiving

There’s nothing more exhilarating, but I had never been so terrified in my life. I also knew that it was HIGHLY unlikely for anything really horrible to happen, because I did go tandem. I’m not crazy. 

I won’t repeat the stuff that everyone’s already said about how it was life changing and awesome and how you should totally do it. I will say that, once I jumped out of a plane with nothing but another person and a silk sheet attached to my back, I’m pretty ok presenting a concept that would stretch the client beyond their comfort zone.

These real-life, pseudo death-defying leaps remind us not to take life so seriously. They remind us that it’s better to do something new than to keep doing what we know works in lieu of trying something new.

 

2. Try doing an old thing in a new way: Premier Pro

I know that After Effects isn’t supposed to be the only editing tool to make five minute-long videos. I understand that the timeline becomes unwieldy and the rendering can be very very slow. But it was just comfortable. Opening up After Effects is like sliding on that old pair of jeans that is comfortable and always fits. But you can’t wear jeans to a cocktail party! Relying only on After Effects for video projects was limiting me. I had to try something new.

I knew I would lose a day or two trying to learn how to work Premier Pro into my video editing workflow. And I was right. I lost about a day and a half watching tutorials and figuring out how to do things in Premier Pro that I already knew how to do easily in After Effects. BUT I was quickly able to make the time up in a speedier render, a much more manageable timeline and generally just using the right tools for the job.

 

3. Try something that embarrasses you: Calligraphy

I know more than a few people who are really good at hand lettering. My little sister sent me something in the mail the other day that was entirely made by hand and practically perfect in every way. I went to design school with Caroline Curtin McGah and Cat Coquillette who are leaders in the craft. There are scads of If I wanted to develop talent like that, I probably should’ve started wielding an angled pen when I was six years old.

But just because I know I won’t be the best doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. As a result, I’ve got some pretty scratchy, splotchy calligraphy samples. It’s embarrassing. But it’s just a start. Even Ron Swanson probably made a wobbly table or two before he became a master carpenter. And you’ve got to start somewhere.

 

4. Try something that takes a really, really long time to master: Polish

This could also be filed under something that embarrasses me. I’m typically floundering around trying to understand but 95% sure I misunderstood. But the only way to overcome this whole confusion is to work really really hard and spend a lot of extra hours working on it. The end goal isn’t on the horizon. The end goal (being able to have a real conversation in Polish) may be a couple years away.

This process of learning Polish is teaching me to enjoy the process itself. If I were learning the language only for the results, I would be discouraged very quickly. Not everything has a clear end date or a hot deadline. Some things worth doing take a long time. I’m learning to be OK with that.

 

Bringing yourself out of a comfort zone is an ongoing process. But the added effort leaves room for constant exploration, discovery, new perspectives and just keeping your creative edge. I'm guessing this road leads to the fountain of youth, as well. Just a guess.

Entry 7: Would you pay for it?

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Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and many others. Guess what makes all social networks the same? Well, one important feature I'm thinking about is the fact that through photos you upload anyone can create a map of places you've visited and figure out what you did, who you've spend your time with and what you did next. In fact, Instagram advertise it as a feature! And  yeah... everything stays on their cloud (butt) servers forever! Would you pay one dollar for a feature that would let to take photos and videos without the worry of being tracked? That would mean that your photos are.... yours. The memories you have by looking at them are .... yours. Cool feature... No? And thats what I was building the last few hours.

Each photo taken with a digital camera has all sorts of geo tagging data like time-stamps that pin each picture to a location and a time it was taken. And it turns out it is not that easy to remove it with code. iOS creates a NSDictionary of all the data thats stored with photos. Some of them being longitude and latitude, time it was taken, resolution and the camera it was shoot with and more than 20 other entries I didn't even take a look yet. And of course since there is no standard ( or for some other reason) each entry is duplicated because different cameras do it differently.

Same as with the other feature, I'm working on (erasing imported photos from camera roll), I'm still pretty far from completion. I need to make sure I don't erase too much data from a photo and that it works on images taken with other cameras than an iPhone one. And once it all works, I will be designing the interface. A simple on-off toggle should be enough... I think.

Time spent: 3 hours.

Total time spent on the project: 27 hours.